Flirting with a Meltdown: Fighting Near Ukrainian Power Plant Raises Risk of Nuclear Accident

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Ukraine, on the other hand, has accused Russia of a “false flag” operation, saying that Putin’s military fired on the power plant in an attempt to discredit the enemy. The Institute for the Study of War in Washington has warned that Russia is using the nuclear plant to stoke Western fears of a nuclear disaster in Ukraine and raise doubts about arms shipments.

Moscow has declared its intention to cut the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant off from the Ukrainian power grid and connect it to the Russian net. For that to happen, though, the occupiers would first have to destroy the lines that lead into Ukrainian territory, says Petro Kotin, director of Enerhoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear energy agency. That, in his opinion, could explain the August 5 attack.

Engineer Ihor claims that employees of the Russian atomic energy agency Rosatom were evacuated from Enerhodar in minibuses on August 4, before the shelling of the plant site. He says they returned on August 8. Ihor witnessed how the distribution station in Zaporizhzhia got damaged on the afternoon of August 5. He saw a trail of smoke in the sky that stretched only from Reactor Block 6 to the impact site. As such, he claims it couldn’t have been fired from the more distant, Ukrainian-controlled side of the river.

Chris Cobb-Smith, founder of the security consultancy Chiron Resources and a former British Army artillery officer, came to a similar conclusion after analyzing photos of the impact site near the nuclear waste storage facility. Cobb-Smith deduced that at least one projectile had been fired from an area in the southeast controlled by Russia. “You can see the groove that a missile typically leaves in the surface where it first hits. So, analytically, it’s relatively easy to trace the exact direction of the fire.”

The Ukrainian government hasn’t yet provided definitive proof that the Russians themselves fired on the nuclear power plant. Even without any further fire, the situation in Zaporizhzhia remains extremely tense and dangerous.

Working conditions for the employees who keep the power plant operating, are becoming more difficult with each passing day, engineer Ihor reports. He says that each worker is searched before entering the plant. And, he adds, more than 200 workers have been arrested since March, with one of them, he says, having been beat to death, and others kidnapped. A quarter of the workforce has fled, he says.

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